BEYONDbones 500!

Well, the museum blog has been online for just over a year now. In that time the hard working, science loving employees at the museum have brought you 500 posts on fascinating science facts, special events, and exhibits on display here at the museum. From the far reaches of the night sky to the eating habits of the praying mantis; from how to draw a dinosaur to how to create your own butter.

We have given you an inside look at each of our special traveling exhibits; from Lucy’s Legacy to the Birth of Christianity: A Jewish Story to Genghis Khan. Ever wonder what plants are best for attracting butterflies? Ory helped you pick some out. Can’t figure out if that rock you found is really a meteorite? James explained the difference. Having trouble identifying that spider or insect living under your couch? Erin and Laurie determined whether or not it was poisonous. Jaime let you know what bands were playing here over the summer and Kat Havens guided teachers through experiments for their classes in addition to the many other fascinating posts from the staff here at the museum.

I want to thank our curators who walked us through the exhibits, guest bloggers who expanded on the topic of their lectures, and the dozen of our other bloggers that have brought you 500 posts over the last year.

None of this would be possible though, without our loyal readers. And as we push on into our second year of BEYONDbones, we at HMNS would like to hear more from you. What do you want to read about? What topics are you most interested in? What is your favorite artifact on display at the museum? Please continue to comment on our blog and email suggestions to blogadmin@hmns.org

BEYONDbones – Now on Alltop

Featured in Alltop

When you’re looking for great web sites and blogs online, you can idly search over time, tripping through the blogrolls of your favorite bloggers, making random discoveries from e-mail forwards or news items on up and coming sites…or you can go to Alltop.

Alltop bills itself as “an online magazine rack of popular topics.” Whatever you’re interested in – they’ve got a page devoted to it, that aggregates all the best blogs and headlines for you, all in one place.

Dads, Nintendo, Interior Design, Baking, Extreme Sports, Twitterati, Wine, Heavy Metal, Animation, Sailing…it goes on and on.

If you’re interested in a topic and you can’t find it on Alltop – I’d like to hear what it is. In fact, they’d probably like to hear what it is, so they can start developing a new page for it.

In short, it’s a pretty awesome spot to find information online, and one that I’ve been using for some time – for research, exploring, catching up on news, and procrastinating in general.

So I was pretty thrilled this morning, when I discovered that this blog, BEYONDbones, was just added to the science category. You can find us at science.alltop.com. We’re in there with some pretty amazing sites – the fascinating SciGuy, LiveScience, Science Friday, NatGeo News and more. Because:

Alltop. We're kind of a big deal.

And by “we,” I mean the amazing bloggers from all corners of HMNS, who provide fascinating news, projects, perspectives and ideas here daily – and especially all of you. Whenever a comment or question comes through, it totally makes our day – it’s a hugely big deal that you choose to spend a little bit of your time with us each day, whether for for research, exploring, catching up on news – or procrastinating in general. Thanks for reading! And, as always, please leave us a comment to let us know what you think, what you wonder about – and what else you’d like to see here at BEYONDbones.

Live from the Field: The Smoking Gun

Kim Beck, a regular excavator with the
HMNS team, looks for fossils eroding out
at the surface.

Our paleontology team – led by Dr. Robert Bakker – is back in Seymour, TX this week, digging for Dimetrodon at a site they’ve now been working for several years. (You can read more of what’s been found already in our daily blog from the field in 2007).

Listen to the podcast below to hear David Temple – our associate curator of paleontology and a one of our BEYONDbones bloggers – fill us in on the progress from yesterday – including the discovery of “The Smoking Gun,” and evidence of cannibal Dimetrodon – as well as the history of the site the team is digging on, which is so rich that scientists have been pulling Dimetrodon and other Permian-era species out of the ground there since 1877.

If you’re a paleo expert, you can skip this paragraph and head straight to the update – but David mentions a few things that not everyone is familiar with: “matrix” is a term paleontologists use to describe the material that surrounds fossils. “Wet screening” is the process of putting matrix on a small-weave screen and running water through it to find any tiny fossils that might have been missed. And, Dimetrodon grandis is the very largest species of Dimetrodon ever found – making it the biggest, baddest predator of the Permian.


Our field team will be updating us on progress at the site every day this week – so check out yesterday’s update from Kat Havens, another of our excavators – and come back tomorrow for more from the fossil field!

Live From the Poles: North Lake and the Journey Home

Our guest blogger today is Chris Linder, a Research Associate at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts. He is the project manager and field photographer for the National Science Foundation-sponsored Live from the Poles project. He’s been sending us weekly updates about their progress.

On July 21, scouts, summer campers and Ecoteens had a chance to get their most pressing climate questions answered from Ian Joughin, the leader of the Greenland Glacier Expedition that Chris has been writing about here through a live satellite link to the campsite in Greenland; later that night, adults got their turn. You can listen in, below.


The team is now back from the Greenland; here’s Chris’ last post on what they learned.

North Lake and the Journey Home

It has been a whirlwind since my last post—a hectic final week on the Greenland ice sheet studying two glacial lakes, a helicopter transfer back to the town of Ilulissat, and a long series of flights taking us home. Warm socks and down jackets are now a thing of the past—I’m typing this dispatch in 87-degree heat in Seattle (I know that’s not really hot for Texans, but it’s quite a tough adjustment for me after a month of subfreezing temperatures!)

A final aerial survey just before we left showed
that the lakes were beginning to form ice on the
surface again. As winter returns to the ice, the
lakes will freeze solid and remain frozen
until the next summer. © Chris Linder, WHOI

Our final week on the ice was dedicated to exploring two nearby lakes, one of which had recently drained (dubbed “North Lake”) and another that was partially full of water when we arrived (dubbed “North North Lake”).

North Lake made the news earlier this year when Dr. Sarah Das (Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution) and Dr. Ian Joughin (University of Washington Applied Physics Lab/Polar Science Center) published a pair of papers in the journal Science about the spectacular draining event that they captured with their instrumentation in July 2006. That summer, a giant hole called a moulin opened up in the lake bed and drained the entire water volume (which is a lot; this lake is several kilometers long!) in an hour and a half. This year, the lake was already empty when we arrived (in fact, we had already heard from colleagues that it drained on July 10, the day we arrived at South Lake camp), so the research team had the freedom to explore the empty lake basin on foot.

The dimpled surface on these tilted blocks shows
that these were part of the former lake bed. The
cracking of the ice sheet surface caused them to break
free and float to the surface as the lake drained.
© Chris Linder, WHOI

Our visits to the North Lake basin revealed a bizarre landscape of car-sized blocks, canyons, rivers and waterfalls. The variation in the landscape on the ice sheet, particularly in the drained lake beds, is staggering. I expected it to be, well, flat, and white.

What we saw was quite different—towering blocks of pushed-up ice, rivers of freezing melt water carving their way through 60-foot deep canyons, gaping bottomless cracks and holes. The color of the ice ranges from opaque white to clear to bluebird blue. To my glaciologist companions, the landscape was also an open book. The blocks indicate where major cracks occurred (the blocks are pieces of the ice sheet that are broken loose during the cracking), and the rivers lead us to the crevasses (cracks) or holes (moulins) where the water was still pouring through the ice sheet to the bedrock. If you put your ear to the cracks, you can hear the water echoing in the depths.


Moulins, or holes in the ice sheet,
can be an otherworldly blue.
© Chris Linder, WHOI

It will still be some time before the final picture of the 2008 lake draining can be told. The scientists had only a brief amount of time to examine their instruments and prepare them for another year of data collecting before we had to pack up and fly out. In the coming months, scientists will be examining the data their instruments collected over the previous year. Dr. Mark Behn, a scientist from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution’s Geology and Geophysics department (and resident “icequakes” expert), had this comment about the data he did look at:

“Even with a 10 minute look, I can see that the quality of the data is good, which tells me the instruments are working. We can also see the timing of large cracking events that drain the lakes, which stand out as dramatic spikes on the record.”

Be sure to check the Polar Discovery website to read dispatches about our other adventures at North Lake, including the release of a harmless tracer dye into a moulin and the investigation of “North North Lake.” 

Thank you to everyone who came in to the museum on July 21 to talk with moderator Twila Moon and Dr. Ian Joughin live from the ice. Stay tuned for future Live from the Poles expeditions on the Polar Discovery website. Until then, best wishes and thanks again for reading,

Chris

Interested in learning more about Chris, his team and their journey to Greenland?
Learn about the purpose of this trip.
Travel to Greenland with him.
Read what they did their first week.